I look back upon the time when I joined the GEP with some mixed feelings. There were many ways in which those days were the best of my life. My father was doing well at work, and we lived in comfortable homes. (Mansions in Singapore are outrageously expensive, and I didn’t live in one. But our homes were nice enough.) I had just joined the GEP, and rather inexplicably did quite well. I was in the middle of my class in primary 3, (because I was scoring 95 when everybody else was scoring 97, 98). In my first 2 years there, I was able to get on by being more clever than others. After that, other people started to beat me by being more hardworking. During my first years in the GEP, I did 2 class projects that were well received.
So it was a charmed life for those 2-3 years. I had impressed my teachers, my classmates. After that, I would have a couple of years when I would crash and become a mediocre student again. Then after that I would recover and become average to good again.
I was quite a hell-raiser back in the day. For those 3 years I would always be the class clown, and throw in smart aleck comments on a regular basis. Maybe life was too easy for me. Maybe I got things done too easily. Maybe teachers were too indulgent with me and allowed me to get away with less than my best. Maybe I didn’t make more of an effort to understand people better or widen my circle.
In sum, good things happened to me during those years. I was finally amongst people who were similar to me. In my previous school, I didn’t exactly fit in, and the previous school was more Chinese-y and more conformist. Now, there were things to do and explore, rather than being somebody on 95 marks and training yourself to avoid simple mistakes so you can get up to 97 or 98. I was stretched inside of class. But I can hardly remember doing anything very much outside of it. It was a lot of cartoons, a lot of mindless entertainment, computer games. Maybe there was a lack of structure.
For clarity, I should state that I would roughly divide my time in the GEP into 3 periods. The first was the happy period, primary 4-6. Second was the unhappy period, sec 1 and 2. Third would be the romantic period, sec 3 and 4. In sum I would say that 5 out of 7 of those years were happy ones, which is a pretty good record.
During the unhappy phase, I would be punished for all that. After I got to secondary school, it was hellish. I took a little too long to adjust, but I did learn some responsibility and grow up somewhat. But well you know, people like me who are a little unusual will suffer the fate of bumping into somebody who doesn’t understand, and who will screw up your life by mismanaging you. Things became better (romantic phase) after I distanced myself from my mother. I stopped talking to her, stopped caring what she thought, stopped obeying her. And she started distancing herself and restricting her role. It was not ideal but heck of a lot better than fighting every day and probably a good way to disengage from a chaotic situation. Won’t elaborate much on the romantic years, but they were somewhat bittersweet and probably the most idealistic of all.
So it was funny. There were 3 years there, and after that was PSLE. And there was a trip to the United States, which was in some ways some kind of a magic dreamland, and in other ways a weird dystopic disappointment. Then was secondary school where the first couple of years were hellish. I had turned from a situation where I could do nothing wrong to a situation where I could do nothing right.
So sometimes I think to myself that today, living in Mexico, this part of my life feels the most similar to that happy phase in my life. The unit number of my office is the same as the postal code of the school during that time, so that did make me think, "Am I back in that phase?" 1. I overcame a great obstacle in order to get to where I was.
Back then, that obstacle was the entrance exam of the GEP. This time, it was getting admitted into a masters program for computer science, then passing it, then obtaining a job. There were 3 obstacles involved. I never fully expected myself to cross those borders. Maybe my biggest weakness is that I don’t have that much optimism. I never really expected myself to get into the GEP, and I never fully expected myself to be working in the USA as a coder.
2. I was going from a more Asian environment to a more Western environment
I was going from a traditionally Chinese school to a traditionally English school back then. This time around, I was going from Singapore to the USA.
3. Life was easy enough without me getting stretched (see above)
4. I was living a life some might call a dream.
And so long as it lasted, I was fine. I’m in a beautiful place, I don’t have to pay as much as I do in Singapore, and I earn more than what I’d make in IT in Singapore.
5. I was in an environment where people were well taken care of, and nerds were allowed to be themselves.
But sometimes I wonder if it will all disappear suddenly. I wonder if I’m being spoilt, or life is too carefree, or too spoilt. Then again, I will look at the terrible years after that, and wonder if there was a lot of drama for nothing.
6. I was probably living in a world of my own.
I think I was obsessed with cartoons and toys. There were MASK toys and Transformers. I didn't own more than 3 or 4 but those were things I dreamt of a lot of the time. That was the first or the last time that I was such a fanboy. Over here, I’m collecting recorded music at a rather alarming rate.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen when the bubble pops, or how it would pop. Perhaps what I'm feeling is also similar to my adult life after 29. Maybe life after 29 is supposed to be more stressful because you have kids and all that, but that didn't happen to me. Maybe what's happening to me is what people call "getting too comfortable".